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Motoring: Liberty has nothing over Patriot

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | March 31st, 2008

A few months ago, I had a go in the new Jeep Liberty. This vehicle is based on the Dodge Nitro SUV and thus I thought it would be fun to live with. After all, I did like the Nitro SLT.

Despite sharing its platform with the Nitro, the Liberty felt very different to drive (perhaps due to a different suspension set-up), and the 210 hp, 3.7-litre, V6 in my test vehicle seemed to lack grunt and the fuel-economy was quite bad, I only averaged 14.5-litres/100km.

On top of everything, I didn't even like the way it looked, and my Limited model tester had a price tag of about $35,000. This Liberty is not going to get any recommendations from me.

The Jeep Patriot on the other hand does.

The Patriot is the cheapest vehicle on sale by Jeep with a base price of just $16,995. Considering even the base model gets the same engine as the top-spec version, a 2.4-litre, inline four-cylinder engine producing 172 hp. This is not a bad deal at all.

Even the Limited model starts at $22,795, which means this is cheap to buy. It is also cheap to run, I averaged 10-litres/100km, which is quite remarkable for something that looks to have all the aerodynamic qualities of a brick.

Looks can be deceiving because I expected the Patriot to suffer from wind noise because of its looks but it doesn't. In fact on the highway it is a relaxed cruiser. Sure if you like absolute silence, this vehicle is not for you, so don't expect Lexus style sound-proofing here (especially first thing in the morning in stop and go traffic) but then that would be missing the point of having a Jeep.

I would also suggest any would-be buyers to spend a bit more and buy the all-wheel drive version, because a Jeep that is not a 4x4 is like buying a mansion without a swimming pool.

I would also strongly recommend the CVT automatic gearbox. Normally I stay clear of CVT gearboxes, they are typically noisy, and feel unnatural to drive. The one you'll get with the Patriot is currently the best CVT in the business. It feels more like a normal automatic, which is a plus, but also when you use it in the Autostick manual mode, the gear changes are fast and smooth. I actually had a lot of fun with this vehicle, a lot more than I had expected.

The ride and handling is just wonderful. It is not bouncy like in some other Jeeps (ahem. Liberty) and even when pushed though the corners at a decent speed it doesn't roll too much either.

So a great vehicle to drive, but how is the interior? Simple answer is, not bad at all. Basically it has everything you really need. My tester had heated leather seats, a great XM-satellite radio equipped sound system with your requisite iPod connector, power windows, power mirrors, and that is it. That is all you need really.

Since this is a boxy Jeep (based on the Dodge Caliber and Jeep Compass platform) there is lots of space for your luggage, especially if you fold down the rear seats.

Just all the stuff I told you about so far should be enough to convince you to go buy one, but wait there's more.

The day you will truly appreciate this Jeep is the day most of us hate, the day we get hit with a snowstorm. That's when you will want to send me a “thank you” letter for recommending this vehicle. With all-wheel drive, this is a very capable vehicle.

Those 17” rims with 215/60 aspect tires really cut through the snow (unlike vehicles with big fat tires which gets them stuck). It is also a lot of fun in the snow. I turned the traction and stability program off and played around with the Patriot. It is easy to drift for all those who like tail-out action and it's easy to catch its slide too. I had more fun in this vehicle during the winter than any other car or SUV I can remember.

So my end answer is an easy one, if given me the choice to buy a practical, affordable vehicle for under $25,000, I would come home with a Patriot.
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